I recently sat a statistical/machine learning exam where, I believe, the instructions and questions were clearly flawed (to the point of being logically incoherent). The problems with the instructions and questions are such that the flaws are not heavily/fundamentally mathematical/statistical in nature (although, they are related to instructions about the use of the provided data), and they should (in my opinion) be clear from the written language itself. Furthermore, the flaws are systemic in nature, in that they affect the entire exam. Is it on-topic for me to post parts of the exam instructions and questions (with accompanying context/explanation, of course) on academia.stackexchange and ask whether they are problematic or whether I am misunderstanding something on my end? (This was an online exam, so students are free to download the material.)

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    Just because the exam is online, that doesn't mean students are entitled to download and repost the material. It's a copyright violation, and unauthorized sharing of course material is specifically against my university's honesty policy Feb 26, 2021 at 17:23

2 Answers 2


and ask whether [the test questions] are problematic or whether I am misunderstanding something on my end?

A question requesting as assessment of your exam will indeed be off-topic, as answers will only apply to the exam in question.

the instructions and questions were clearly flawed (to the point of being logically incoherent)

I suspect there are several variations of your question that would be on-topic (though these variations may or may not be what you want to know). For example:

  • A question that assumes that the test is flawed and asks for advice moving forward.
  • A question asking whether a specific question type (which might appear on different exams) is misleading or sub-optimal
  • Technical questions about the course content, while off-topic here, might be on topic in the relevant stacks (in this case, data science or statistics)

In any of these cases, giving some brief examples and linking to the full exam should be fine.

  • Thanks for the answer. As I mentioned, the flaws aren't really technical in nature, and so it would be off-topic for stats.stackexchange. If I ask a question assuming that the test is flawed and ask for advice moving forward, and someone comments (either in their answer or in the comments section) regarding the legitimacy of my concerns, then that would still be fine, right? But would I be allowed to post images/details with this type of question (say, as providing context)? Feb 25, 2021 at 15:35
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    Adding details/context is usually a good thing, though I would encourage you to concisely lay out the question, and add the more detailed version separately (for example, with bullets). Very long posts tend not to be received so well.
    – cag51 Mod
    Feb 25, 2021 at 16:17
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    @ThePointer My caution when adding detail/context would be to make sure you don't drift into rant territory - too many details can feel like an airing of grievances rather than genuine support for the question.
    – Bryan Krause Mod
    Feb 25, 2021 at 21:45

Thanks for asking! I would move to close such a question as "too specific to individual circumstances". Asking that question would not benefit others in a similar situation, as they wouldn't ever find themselves in that specific a similar situation.

Putting aside appropriateness for this forum, though, I would also suggest that posting here wouldn't be useful, as we have no control over that site. Consider the scenario where everyone here agrees that, yes, the question is unfair. Now what? You're no closer to getting the situation fixed, and having agreement about unfairness in an online forum doesn't really do much to help your case. I'd suggest that you take your complaint/recommendation to the owners of the site/exam directly.

  • Thanks for the answer. I will indeed be taking it further with the university. The reason I wanted to post it to academia.stackexchange was to get some outside opinions; but if posting to academia.stackexchange would be off-topic, then I guess I won't do that. Feb 25, 2021 at 13:44
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    Your question is yet young; I'd give it at least until the end of the day to see whether anyone else posts any other opinions. Diamond or not, I'm just another guy on this forum with an opinion :)
    – eykanal
    Feb 25, 2021 at 14:18

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